Nervously driving through while clenching the wheel with my sweaty hands would be the only way for me to experience this place, should it not be for another of our Servas destinations. Sometimes it is a metropolitan street and sometimes – like today – a 15th century village in the mountainous heart of Liguria.
The place is truly like nothing else. Or rather, like something that you would have seen in an old movie depicting life in a provincial south-European village a couple of hundred years ago. Modern life is left outside, literally: I wrote about driving through, but actually the village is on the other side of a deep creek over which an ancient bridge is placed. The bridge and the streets are too narrow for most cars, so we leave the car outside and walk the rest of the way to Jane’s house. She lives in an amazing place that she restored herself from the ground up, we look at the pictures of the property as it was when she bought it and the remains of the house are barely visible under the vegetation, there are old trees growing inside the house walls. Now it’s a refurbished countryside mansion whose spaces play with you as if you are Alice in wonderland: staircases swirl around rooms none of which are of a recrangular shape, there’s custom built furniture everywhere and you are somehow always within a step from where you need to get.
During an afternoon stroll we engage in a lively conversation in Italian with some local grandmoms, who ask suspiciously after a standard “bon giorno” is exchanged: “italiani?”. “No – I answer – norvegiani”. Oh, the smiles are appearing after we’ve used up all of our Italian words (even those that were covered with thickest dust on the highest shelves) to say that Italy is beautiful and their village is pretty. We receive a full explanation, that, yes, it’s “antiquissima”, and here, the church is from the 15th century (we are shown a Roman numeral on the remains of a pillar stone) – in the 19th century there was and earthquake that brought the pillar itself down. Then, that the stone used for all the maconry is from the river, and everything is carved by hand, that the geraniums on the outer side of the village belong to a house of one of our new friends, she is very pleased that we get that part. She’s Catholic and even though we are not, there is one God, she says before she walks off.
I am literally in awe of the place and of the fact that “antiqussima” and the people who live here exist under the same sky as the 21st century metropoli with busy subways, glass and concrete. I hope the car does not pick up the vibe of the place and turn into some Piaggio with 3 wheels by tomorrow.